Most people know Taos attracts talented people; it always has. Today, visual artists, filmmakers, actors and writers are drawn to Taos for the same reasons artists and writers were drawn here over a hundred years ago. What many people may not think about is how many talented people are bred here. You can see a number of the younger ones at the stage production of the musical Annie, which premieres at the TCA on Thursday, November 7th.
In 1977, I was fortunate enough to see Annie at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., just a few weeks before it moved to Broadway. I was young and without much theater experience, but I was aware enough to know that the character of Annie is an enormously difficult and demanding role. Not many thirteen-year-old girls had been asked to carry a big Broadway musical on their shoulders, as Andrea McArdle was when the show made its premiere in New York. McArdle became the youngest performer nominated for a Tony award for best lead actress (she lost to her Annie co-star, Dorothy Loudon).
In Taos, that difficult and demanding role lands on two young actresses: 13 year old Sally Tennant, and 11 year old Camille Cooper. Tennant and Cooper are sharing the role, performing on alternating nights. The other orphans and younger cast members are also sharing roles. From what I’ve heard at a few rehearsals, these kids have got the chops and are up to the challenge.
The title character is a child, but Annie is not simply a story for children. The theme of hope goes beyond Annie’s hope for a reunion with the parents who left her at the orphanage with the nasty Miss Hannigan. The Great Depression provides a perfect setting for hope on a grander scale—hope that things will get better for everyone. The younger actors may be unfamiliar to you, but you may recognize Ana Chavez as the delightfully mean Miss Hannigan, and the multi-talented and now bald William Hall as Daddy Warbucks. The versatile Jim Sanborn plays multiple roles, including FDR. The entire cast will remind you just how many talented people, young and old, live in Taos.
Director Cynthia Freeman-Valerio has spent a year and a half working to help bring musical theater back to Taos.
“The TCA used to co-produce musicals and they were so wonderful. I have missed both attending and participating in them on a regular basis,” said Freeman-Valerio, a native New Yorker who adored going to Broadway musicals.
Freeman-Valerio has a pair of talented collaborators in choreographer Amber Vasquez and musical director Ryan Allais. Many know Vasquez as head of the Taos Youth Ballet. Vasquez has been a professional dancer and choreographer in Manhattan and many other parts of the U.S. Allais is a classically trained tenor and trombone player. He has been receiving raves for his revival of the Taos High School and Middle School band programs.
Annie runs November 7th-9th and November 14th-16th. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and children. Call the TCA box office at 575-758-4677 for tickets and information.